5 Summer Learning Activities For Primary School Children

Takeaway: Slow down ‘summer learning loss’ by challenging your child with fun learning activities. For instance, try (1) Scavenger hunts to sharpen observation skills, (2) Field trips to improve organisational skills, (3) Creative writing to stimulate imagination and narrative skills, (4) Invention challenges to encourage lateral thinking and problem-solving, and (5) Origami to improve visual-spatial skills and more.  

Learning over the holidays can be fun if we choose the right activities.

In an earlier post about summer learning loss, we discussed the ‘summer slide.’ This is a phenomenon where children seem to forget much of what they learned over the previous academic year. And studies show that students lose approximately one month of learning over the summer holidays – primarily because they lose momentum and don’t review (and reinforce) what they’ve already learned. Further, children often rebel against summer learning because they’d rather play and have fun. So, what’s the solution? Design learning experiences that are easy-going and entertaining. And as a start, create your own versions of the following five activities, adapting them to your child’s needs.

1. Scavenger hunts to sharpen observation skills.

Scavenger hunts are a stimulating activity for individuals and groups. You can build individual hunts around themes like finding ‘something you can write on,‘something that lights up,’ or ‘something that holds things.’ Topics like these will sharpen your child’s observation skills (as she scans her environment for each challenge) and creative thinking skills (e.g., Mommy ‘holds’ a cup just as the cup ‘holds’ coffee.) You can also design group hunts around the skills and traits of the players. For example, you could ask the group to find ‘someone who has a pet dog’ or ‘someone who can juggle.’ This will push them to work together (rather than compete) and learn more about each other in the process. As a twist, you could even ask older children to create themes and prizes for the younger ones in the group.

2. Field trips to improve drawing and organisational skills.

If being out and about is an option, consider taking your child somewhere mentally stimulating.

For example, visit a zoo and give your child a checklist of all the animals she wants to see. She can sketch her favourite ones, checking them off her list when she’s done. It’s a great way to hone her drawing skills and make her feel like a grown-up for having this project to complete. (If you can’t visit a zoo, enjoy these virtual zoos with animal webcams instead.) You don’t need to go somewhere fancy, though. Even a trip to the supermarket can become an adventure. For instance, you could give your child a shopping list and ask her to cross off items as you buy them. For a tougher challenge, have her write the price of each item and add them up at the end. You could even make it a scavenger hunt by asking her to find hard-to-spot items.

3. Creative writing to stimulate imagination and narrative skills.

Story writing challenges your child to create unique plots, refine her thoughts and ideas, arrange these in sequence, and express them in new and exciting ways. Plus, she’ll get to write about her passions, perhaps researching important facts in the process. For instance, if she’s writing a space travel story, she might Google the planets in our solar system to figure out a character’s destination. Or if it’s an urban adventure, she might look up major landmarks in her city of choice. The key is to focus on the story first, not the grammar and punctuation. Encourage her to draft her thoughts, arrange them logically, and develop the story before worrying about spelling, syntax, and other technicalities. Remember, however short and simple the story (or however young your child), there’s always a chance to nurture the same core writing habits that Pulitzer Prize-winning authors use. And if your child isn’t writing yet, prime her brain by reading to her daily.

4. ‘Invention’ challenges to encourage lateral thinking and problem-solving.

Encourage your child to invent new solutions to fun, imaginary challenges. For instance, ask her to design a machine to weigh elephants or a tool to pick apples – focusing on being innovative rather than practical. So, will elephant-weighing mean developing a new type of scale? Or would she put the elephant in a massive tub and weigh the water it displaces? (You could recreate a mini version of the experiment using a toy and a bowl of water.) As with the earlier creative writing tasks, we focus on the method, not the result. So, you’ll take her through a logical process of asking questions, imagining solutions, drawing blueprints, thinking through possible outcomes, and modifying the inventions accordingly. Learn more about lateral thinking.

5. Origami to improve visual-spatial skills and more.

We usually associate origami with making pretty shapes. But there’s so much more to it. For instance, practical items like pizza boxes, paper gift bags, and scientifically-folded car airbags are all based on origami principles. And the National Science Foundation – an independent agency of the United States government – connects engineers with origami artists to innovate inventions like medical forceps and foldable plastic solar panels. So, origami-based summer activities can teach your child multiple skills simultaneously. For example, she’ll explore basic geometry concepts like length, width, and height. She’ll learn about fractions as she folds paper into halves, thirds, and fourths. She’ll improve her hand-eye coordination and precision as she makes intricate folds. She’ll improve her 3D perception by imagining what the shapes will look like two or three folds ahead. And she’ll develop her problem-solving and frustration-tolerance skills as she tries to perfect more advanced origami projects. Try these beginner origami projects for primary-age children.

Whichever activities you choose to explore, try sticking to a written schedule.

Even young learners need structure in their lives, so it’s worth sticking to a holiday schedule that balances learning and play. Perhaps you could draw out a weekly calendar, using coloured Post-its to allot tasks for each day? For example, you could use yellow Post-its for structured learning (e.g., science, maths, etc.) and orange Post-its for less structured activities (e.g., art, music, mindfulness, and more). So, the challenge would be to find the right daily balance of orange vs red Post-its. Your child could help choose the activities, stick Post-its for the week ahead, and remove them as she completes each task.

Remember to keep things fun and ask for help if needed.

Learning inevitably slows down during the summer, so focus on minimising (instead of reversing) summer learning loss. Make plans and try sticking to them, but don’t be hard on yourself if your child struggles. Remember, there are so many factors at play. She might need a new approach (e.g., switching activities more often), custom-designed tasks, or help dealing with a specific learning difference. So, if she’s not progressing, consider reaching out to us for help. The Ed Psych Practice offers face-to-face and online assessments, consultation, advice, and problem-solving strategies for parents, nurseries, schools, and universities in London. We have psychologists, paediatricians, and therapists who can help assess your child and offer guidance and support. To consult with us or set up an appointment:

Want to see how else you can help your child? You might enjoy some of our other posts.

Image Source: Summer activities vector created by brgfx – www.freepik.com

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